26 January 2016

Wise words

I am trying to organize the kitchen somewhat.  Having a small kitchen forces us to be creative with space and selective with stuff.  It is a challenge, especially when I want so much to create a kid-friendly environment.  We spend a heap of time working in the kitchen, which means it's a great starting point.  And so, here I am.  That's what I'm working on today anyhow.  Tomorrow it's time for  ordering seeds.  (Gotta have those tomato seeds ready to start next month.)  And parent-teacher interviews.

I have also started playing the piano again.  After an 8 year hiatus,  Not pretty, my friends.  But it's so wonderful sitting down again... just wish I had the same enthusiasm back then.  (I hated piano lessons and having to practice everyday!)  Michael has started playing more seriously too, though he usually finishes "practice" time with some choice explorative pounding.  So we take turns tinkering.  And learning together.

This picture above is one of my favourites.  The older three sitting in front of the oven waiting for their cheese sandwiches to finish melting.  A little pre-bedtime snack.  It was hilarious to see all three noses literally up against the oven door.  (And in the time it took me to grab the camera, some of them became unglued.  Naturally.)

I am noticing that with four young children, it is tricky to give each child some one-on-one time with mama or papa.  S gets the most because she is with me during the day while the older two are in school.  I love that she follows me literally everywhere around the house with her little lamb and bunny.  And often a sippy cup.  And while I sit and scrub toilets, she sings twinkle-twinkle little star.  Of course, she has her own work to do while I putter around the kitchen.  Pouring things, making smoothies for everyone from the overripe bananas, and playing with Romanos.  I really try to make her a part of what I'm doing so I don't feel the need so much plunk her in front of a film.  Some days it's easier, and others are harder.  We take one day at a time as much as we can.  I'm always thankful for those good days.  They remind me how much fun it is to have little ones!

How I wish for more time like that again with each of my babies.  They aren't kidding when those older ladies (or gentleman) pass you and remark how fast time passes and to enjoy the present day (even moment!) with your kids.  Yep.  Sage advice.

18 January 2016

Quickie update

On Friday we got our new budgie, Romanos.  He's an English Budgie and the kids named him.  I must say it is a fitting name - he chirps quite melodiously!  :)  Thankfully he is hand-raised, so he's quite used to be handled.  I say thankfully because my older three do not leave him alone for a moment when they are awake.  (Sometimes mama has to intervene for birdie's sake!)  But he really is a good bird, very tolerant and relaxed, despite being manhandled by 3 well-meaning children.  And they love when he eats from their hands.  While I'm told he will eat anything, we've found he prefers apples and broccoli.  So far.  

D started a new contract in the new year and it's keeping him quite busy.  Otherwise, life is the same.  Except on Mondays when there is skating.  Then, there is somewhat of a scrambling to get home, eat, read a story, work on a math problem, build some Lego, and then get out to skating.    It's not terribly crazy, but it's different from our usual routine.  My crockpot is a great friend for days like these.  A nice roast, a whole chicken, chicken soup.  Bonus, I can leave the house while it's cooking to do errands.  I think everyone should have a crockpot!  :)  

By the way, the kids love skating.  First, J thought she'd be skating circles around the rink.  She was disappointed the first lesson was all about getting up after falling.  M remembered from last year's skating episode.  And he actually was able to walk/skate a bit on the ice.  With plenty of tumbles mind you.  And we love watching our babies.  Our babies that are not quite so little anymore.   

8 January 2016

Quieter pursuits

Things have been a little quieter on the home front this past week as the kids started school.  Its always a little confusing for me.  Just as we finally get into a rhythm that feels good we have to up and change again.  More than that, I have mixed feeling about them starting school again.  On the one hand, I miss them and I miss all things we could be doing together - that we should be doing together!  On the other hand, I am thankful for a quieter and tidier space.  (I'd trade the latter for the former any day mind you.)

To calm my confused and somewhat low spirits, I have picked up my crochet hook and knitting needles.  Nothing like yarn to match a contemplative mood - and it really does bring me to my happy place!  That there above is going to be another hooded cowl.  Haven't decided between rabbit or wolf or perhaps another cat?  Speaking of wolf, there is a wolf hat I have in my unfinished project bag waiting for me to get to it.  Maybe I'll make this one a wolf too and we'll have a pack?  (Oh the possibilities!)  Also, when you're feeling off, chocolate cake can't hurt.  A sour cream chocolate bundt cake.  Preferably drizzled in a delicious chocolatey ganache.  

This is my 3rd in action.  (She is literally my Montessori poster baby... thrives on routines that one does.)  She is cutting up a banana for her morning snack.  I ended up eating it for her since she preferred to munch on carrot sticks and broccoli trees.  We're flexible like that.  :)

 I finished (I think?) a watercolour robin yesterday.  The kids all did watercolours alongside mama.  They are all marked as gifts.  I will ask them if I can share their work here for the next post.  I'm going to frame theirs either way.  I was so happy to break out the paints.  An impromptu art session.  I miss art.  

Here's to more art in 2016!  

4 January 2016

Back to the mundane...

Happy 2016!  After a sweet break from our everyday routine, we are back to it again.  And I am actually excited to return to the mundane.  :) 

Of course, there are some new additions to our days.  M and J start skating lessons once a week for a couple of months.  And for Christmas, M got soccer lessons on Saturdays.  I don't think it will be much of a disruption to our rhythm.  D takes Michael to soccer (a sort of father-son thing) and I fixed it so that their skating lessons are at the same time.  A two for one deal.  I pick them up from school, feed them and off we head to the rink.  As for the younger two, I have no doubt they'll take it in stride.  

I am also trying to find a good piano teacher for M at least and maybe J.  They love music and it just feels like starting them in lessons is the right thing to do.  We might hold off on that until skating is done though depending on how it affects our routine.  (I am quite conscious of my inability to handle too many activities outside the home while still retaining my patience and good humour.)  

Anyhow, my to-do list has taken on a new hue: practical.  For example, the kids need a new dresser, also, S will be needing a real bed soon so I'm thinking trundle bed.  (Space is at a premium here...)  It would actually work out really well with our set-up, so fingers crossed we can make it happen soon.  And wouldn't she just love a "big kid" bed too!  

Baby M is just as cute as a button.  Still head over heels for that one, I am.  She just has a way to get us all wrapped around her finger without trying.  All of us, I say!  We're positively ga-ga over baby.  And by the way, I have to say what a different soul she is from the others, even at the tender age of 1.5 months.  For one thing, she sleeps like a champ.  NINE HOURS last night, my friends.  What a considerate little darling!  (Normally she goes around 5 or 6, but I'll take it!)  For another, she just loves to watch us and coo from her chair.  For a long time.  I could eat her.  But enough gushing.  

S and I (and baby M) are off to Michael's craft store.  They have a sale on yarn and I am needing some orange for another hooded cowl.  I love those kind of errands - the ones that end up in another exciting project.  (That there above is a photo of M's newest project for school - a popsicle stick house for little animals... possibly birds?)    

Enjoy the real winter weather!  (My monkeys were ecstatic this morning about wearing snow pants to school for the first time...)

22 December 2015

Christmas crafting

Just stopping by to share some of our Christmas crafting.  A foxy messenger bag (which will probably not be ready by Christmas...), pine cone ornaments, Christmas cookies with my elf, peppermint bark jars, a chef's apron for M (shhh!).  Yesterday, I taught the two older ones to finger knit, so they have been knitting garlands to decorate our home.  J has taken to it surprisingly well, though I don't have a photo here to show.  She really loves handiwork, especially when it's something do-able for her little hands.  

Lots of family festivities going on around here with cousins, aunts, uncles and friends.  Which feels exactly right for this time of year.  Baby M loves being passed around the group while napping in various arms.  (Honestly, just holding her feels like Christmas to me - look at those cheeks and those little lips!)  I have embraced the chaos and we are coasting along: doing what can be done and not worrying about the rest.    

Now is when we really dive into the last bit of baking and cleaning.  And of course the wrapping of all these goodies.  Wishing you a blessed Christmas season!

16 December 2015

Schooling report

Having a newborn kind of puts the kibosh on a lot of our homeschooling activities.  (I all it homeschooling because that is exactly what it is!)   I will freely admit resorting to various movies or TV programs (God bless Curious George!) to helping me out with the older ones when I need to deal with the younger kiddies.

Full disclosure: we do not actually own a TV.  Anything the kids watch is from the computer.  We have found that it is much easier not to get sucked into endless hours in front of the screen this way.  As much as we are able, we are trying to promote an environment of connection, of creativity in our home.  It's so much more rewarding to play a game of chess with a partner, read aloud, make something, write a letter, draw, cook or whatever other activity each enjoys.  And with a small living space, we do most of our activities together or at least around each other.  I would say that is the biggest benefit of small spaces.  :)  

When all is said and done, even when the kids are left up to their own devices, lots of interesting things happen.  (Sometimes I wonder if I use the TV more for me than for them, because they do just fine without it.)  And I do so love the Montessori approach (as I've said a million times before) because it builds up to a child being able to work on their own.  This is helpful when dealing with multiple children.  Each child has their own style, their own pace, and their own work.  It is set up in a certain place and ready for whenever they are.

M has moved along rapidly in his reading.  Sometimes I have to slow him down because he "guesses" on a word instead of deciphering it, but he has improved a lot from the summer.  We have added french to the mix, so now he does the same in french.  Since he gets spelling lists each week in french (and english) in school, I've stopped doing it at home.  We just study his school lists together.  His french has definitely improved over the past few months. Besides spelling lists, he writes/copies phrases into his journal, or he writes a letter to someone instead.  He still loves math best and even on a bad day, it doesn't take much persuasion to do some math problems.  He is working on memorizing the multiplication tables.  I try to have him do at least a few addition problems each week so he doesn't forget his addition facts.  This is his latest drawing which he allowed me to share here - a fire-breathing dragon in the desert.  :)  

As for J, she is reading books at last.  (It's tough to have so many words strung together on a page, and I feel it's important for them to be ready to succeed before they are introduced to something, so we waited a while.)  We've started with the BOB books (phonetic readers), and isn't she happy to be reading just like her big brother!  She is able to write most letters and numbers and practices this by copying words I write out on paper or in our sand box.  This is aside from spelling with the large moveable alphabet.  She is also working on numbers and knows the symbols up to 10 and can retrieve the corresponding quantity.  She loves the big number rods still, though more and more she opts for the smaller ones.  And of course, practical life activities (like wet-wet pouring, sponging, wiping tables, sweeping, etc.) are her favourites.  

S actually started doing activities more "formally" (or should I say purposefully?) this year, though I don'r exactly remember when.  For the past few weeks, she's been working with the sandpaper letters.  One morning, she lifted the box of letters off the shelf, brought them to me on the sofa and held one up.  I told her what it was and the rest, as they say, is history.  I can't get over how quick she is.  She's not even 2.5 yet!  (Wish I knew about Montessori when the others were that age!)  She also does tons of practical life activities.  She can put on her shoes, peel an egg by herself, sort things, etc.  She does love sponging, spooning, pouring and even colouring and tracing the metal insets.  I think she sees her siblings and wants to be a part of what they're doing.

Baby M is working on growing.  That takes up all her time these days.  She did smile at me consciously for the first time yesterday.  That was awesome!  I love those moments.  And then I look like a goofball cooing at her with a big smile plastered on my face trying to get her to do it again.  Sometimes she does!  It's the highlight of my day!  So, while my darling children are getting "smarter", my IQ is dropping by the minute.  Hilarious.

C'est la vie.  There are other less regular goings-on like science activities (M and I made a racing car that runs on a rubber band, J is learning seeds and the life-cycle of a plant); geography studies (solar system/continents for J, and continents/countries for M); and art projects (lately we're really into needle and felt crafts).  I hope to get some watercolour painting with the kids over the holidays.  But that's it in a nutshell.  (I am deliberately trying to be detailed here for my own future reference.)

I should mention that we don't usually spend so much time schooling on the whole.  The activities are actually designed to take a short amount of time - say 10 minutes.  It's the continuous repetition that cements the concept.  (Although if a child really enjoys an exercise, they are free to repeat it ad infinitum...)

Well, that's my last school "report" for 2015.  I am off to the grocery store with the two younger ones to get some baking supplies.  We have almond bark and peppermint bark to make as gifts for Christmas.  Wishing you a wonderful week!


6 December 2015

A special visit

For just a few hours, I am alone with baby.  D has taken the kids to church, and so we are here, baby M and I, for a bit resting, enjoying each other and the quiet.  I didn't want to go online, but it seems like I just can't collect my thoughts properly with a million kids running around the place.  (Ok, three or four is hardly a million, but it may as well be because the volume they can reach is truly amazing!)  I am prepared for their return though with a vegan chocolate cake.  I am not above bribery.  :)  

We have been having rather mild temperatures up to this point, so the kids don't think it feels very much like Christmas.  That might be somewhat of a Godsend since I haven't had any nagging yet.  :)  (The proverbial silver lining...)  St Nicholas did pay a visit to these little ones this morning though, and weren't they just ecstatic!  We try to keep it a little low-key because we don't want "things" to be the focus of the feast.  They got each a bottle of apple juice (that's a big thing since we don't keep juice in our house unless we make it from the fruit itself), and some money.  (I think the juice was a bigger hit!)  Boy were they happy that Bishop Nicholas didn't forget them.  His is one of their favourite saint stories.

I am looking for a quick pattern to knit or crochet a pair of slippers for miss J.  She has outgrown her old ones and I think it would be a sweet Christmas gift.  I will, of course, have to make them in pick for the proper effect.  Also, embellishments would be greatly appreciated, so I'll have to see what I can do.  Maybe a little jewel glued on will suffice?  Or perhaps a felt flower?  

Don't ask about the state of my home.  It is in need of some TLC.  Small table covered in glue, buttons and bits of paper.  And glitter everywhere.  (What's with kids and glitter?!)   The bathroom was clean yesterday, but now the counters are covered with puddles of water and a few drops of toothpaste.  At least the laundry is somewhat under control.  

And as for the kitchen, I think I'll pass on any describing.  Why is it that dishes can be done, and yet the kitchen can still be messy?  I'll never understand how my babies are able to do what they do.  So full of enthusiasm for everything.  And this mama trying desperately NOT to extinguish their little flames of excitement.  (SO hard!)  But worth it when they come to me proudly with their little projects.  I just have to keep the end goal in sight and try not to flip out on the journey.  After all, flour covered counters may be a nuisance, but little ones who learn through that to be self-sufficient and enjoy cooking in the kitchen is priceless to me.  

Happy Feast Day!

PS - I will try to post some photos later on today when I have the time.  Right now I am going back to enjoying my baby.  :)  

Cooking and cleaning can wait till tomorrow,
For babies grow up, we've learned to our sorrow.
So settle down cobwebs, dust go to sleep,
I'm nursing my baby and babies don't keep.